Consider this story idea: an abandoned tire becomes conscious and goes on a killing spree. If you are very boring, you might turn this into a stripped down version of Christine. But if you were Quentin Dupieux, you would turn it into a postmodern circus that plays with various realities before coming together to destroy itself. Rubber is one part Scanners and one part El Topo and one part “any random Don Coscarelli film.” In other words: it was fantastic.
Rubber exists on a few levels. It starts with a screening of the film for a group of people in the desert who are given binoculars to view it. The film they are viewing, however, is in the same reality that they are.
Add to this the fact that some of the people in the film being viewed know they are making a film and some do not. By the end of Rubber, all of the different aspects of the film come together to destroy the people who made the film. Or something. But rest assured, for a film that has such mind-bending fun with point-of-view, the ending is surprisingly concrete. And, I thought, compelling.
As for the actual plot, well, that mostly involves a tire rolling around and making people’s heads explode. As I said: Scanners. But there’s more David Cronenberg here than just that. Dupieux loves the gore in an almost fetishistic way, much like in Death Bed: the Bed That Eats.
At the same time, he loves to point out that it is all movie craft. Early on in the film, the tire blows up a rabbit. Later, the audience members are all hungry so a little boy in the group goes and gets the pieces of the rabbit. But then one of the audience members points out that it’s fake.
Rubber is also notable for being quite funny. In addition to the explosions, which are done as humor rather than horror, there are at least a half dozen good laughs in the film. And I suspect that the film would be a lot funnier if seen in a group.
There is a running gag throughout the film that there is “no reason” for what’s going on, just as there is no reason for so much of what goes on in real life. But the film actually does a far better job of providing motivation for the tire’s actions than most films do. One of my big annoyances in films is that the villains are so often bad just because. So the motivation is part of the joke.
Of course, you may hate Rubber. The film is very much in love with itself and I can definitely see how that would rub some people the wrong way. It is hard not to think that the people making the film were having a much better time than most of the people watching it. This is even explicit in the film where the producers try to kill off their screening audience — a desire Dupieux has probably had a few times.
But if you like psychotronic films, it is kind of hard not to love Rubber. I mean, it’s really very simple. A tire rolls around making people’s heads explode while the producers of the film try to kill off the audience so they can stop making it. And the whole thing is done with a great deal of intelligence and humor.
And it looks great. I think it’s like Jesus Christ: you just have to accept Rubber and all will be revealed. Regardless, you should have a good time.
I have to relate my favorite bit in the film (it is in the trailer above, but the editing ruins the comedy). The tire is rolling down the highway when a sheriff’s car pulls up behind it. The tire stops. It turns around to face the car. That’s the joke: the tire turned around. Like it has a front! Brilliant!
Rubber poster via Amazon under Fair Use.